... on Anne Wareham's excellent website, ThinkinGardens.
Anne is a very interesting lady and garden owner: she opens her garden, at Veddw House (pronounced Vedd-oo, she assures me) to the public through the summer months, and she has written several gardening books.
The one that caught my eye was "The Bad Tempered Gardener". The title made me laugh, firstly because it's uncompromising in rebutting the usual airy-fairy "oh, gardening is so lovely and wonderful and good for the soul, and everyone who gardens is an angel," , and secondly because it seemed, to me, to be having a sly dig at Christopher Lloyd and his "Well Tempered Garden".
Having read her book, I can certainly say that I don't agree with all of her views, but I respect her like heck for having them, and for having the nerve to declaim them. In particular, Anne despairs at the way reviewers (or visitors) describe all gardens as "lovely" despite the evidence in front of them. I'm moderately outspoken on the same subject - you are most welcome to read through some of my garden reviews, if you have an hour or so spare: just look to the right of this pane, there is a heading "Frequently Covered Subjects!" under which you can see Garden Visit. Click on that and you'll see what I mean.
I can't quite remember how, but we made contact via social media, and I think Anne was quite pleased to find someone else who was prepared to be rude - where appropriate - about other people's gardens. It was a great pleasure to finally meet her in real life, when I visited Veddw House gardens earlier this year. Or was it last year?
(short pause for some panic-stricken paging though the Garden Visit posts.... oh no! It was indeed last year! I started to write the review and decided it was too late in the year to publish it: better to hold it over until spring, so that anyone reading it would be able to go and visit more or less straight away. And then I forgot! Oh woe! Anne, please forgive me! Not least for all these exclamation marks!!)
Anyway, we've been friends ever since, and from time to time I submit an article to her for inclusion on ThinkinGardens, and I'm always thrilled when one gets accepted.
Today's one is a thought-provoking piece about children and gardening. I love being a professional gardener, and between mentoring, writing a book about it, and giving workshops on How To Be A Successful Self-Employed Gardener, I'm clearly all in favour of encouraging people to take up this profession. But I'm somewhat dubious about the wisdom of forcing the government to add it to the curriculum: gardening as a compulsory once weekly lesson, yes. Gardening as an after-school activity, yes. But gardening as a career choice? I'm not so sure.
Why all this doubt? Surely I should be keen to get the next generation of gardeners up and at 'em?
Well, yes, but it's a bit like doing a degree in Klingon: where is the job, afterwards? What about all the graduates, clutching their degrees in Media Studies while they wait for an interview at a fast food joint? What about that recent headline story about the girl with the geography degree, refusing to take temporary shelf-stacking work while she waited for a job which was "more suited to her qualifications?"
This will apply ten-fold to professional gardeners, as there is hardly a stately home in the country which is expanding the gardening staff. Most of them are laying off staff, reducing team size, downgrading jobs, bringing in contractors and volunteers (don't get me started on volunteers...) and thus reducing the number of experienced, qualified staff required.
There will always be some youngsters who are passionate about gardening, and who are determined enough to get the qualifications, find someone to give them experience, and who will forge their own way into this profession. Yay! for them, I say: well done, good choice.
But I don't think there is any point in forcing the schools to push it as a career.
Read it for yourself, and let me know what you think: